|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Ron Goudie & Stryper|
|Record Label: Enigma||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1984||Artist Website: Stryper|
|Tracks: 6||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 24:22|
When the issue of Christian metal is brought up, the first name that often comes to mind is Stryper, a band that by and large defines the genre. The origins of the group can be traced back to when brothers Robert and Michael Sweet got saved at a young age while watching a Jimmy Swaggart television crusade. After the two formed the first incarnation of Stryper known as Roxx Regime in 1982, a friend of the band, Ken Metcalf, began witnessing to the brothers who had fallen away from the faith. Guitarist Oz Fox proceeded to join Roxx Regime in 1983 and soon thereafter the three dedicated the band to God as a result of Metcalf’s influence and chose a new name in Stryper. (Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness). Bassist Tim Gaines, in the meantime, left the secular band Stormer upon becoming a Christian and joined Stryper in the summer of 1983 when Robert offered him the gig. Stryper’s first demo led to the band signing with Enigma records, and while the music on the tape was the same as the bands debut, the lyrics were not yet Christian. Enigma did not find out about Stryper’s faith and change in lyrical direction until after they signed the deal but chose to back the band when they saw how big it way becoming in Hollywood.
I might describe The Yellow And Black Attack, Stryper’s 1984 six song Enigma debut EP, as eighties influenced metal and hard rock delivered with an abundance of the bands natural and all out raw energy. The album, for example, proves an effective combination of up-tempo melodic metal numbers such as “Loud N Clear”, "Co'Mon Rock" and "Loving You" and those that reflect a more commercial hard rock feel in "You Know What To Do" and "You Won't Be Lonely". The driving sounds of “From Wrong To Right”, on the other hand, almost touches upon classic metal while conveying the bands message in no uncertain terms.
Showcasing a voice with great range, power and dynamics, lead vocalist Michael Sweet deserves to rank with the top metal vocalists of his era (or any era for that matter). Michael also handles all rhythm guitar duties in addition to contributing the lead guitar work to “You Know What To Do” and “Loving You”. Lead guitarist Oz Fox, a terrific talent, brings a faster and edgier sounding style he best puts on display on “Loud N Clear” and "Co'Mon Rock". The power drumming of visual timekeeper Robert Sweet and steady bass lines of Tim Gaines puts in place a solid foundation for the bands sound.
Ron Goudie and Stryper produced The Yellow And Black Attack on a budget of only $6000. Nevertheless, in giving prominence to crisp and refined sonics, it stands the test of time as the best sounding album this reviewer has heard recorded on such a low budget. The rhythm guitar - edgy, upfront and mixed with plenty of distortion - is produced to near perfection, while the lead guitar cleanly rises above the instrumentation. The bass and drums both come across in a tight and sharp sounding manner.
After "Loud N Clear" opens the album to what best can be described as synthesized screaming, a hard hitting riff carries the song through its first verse as Michael details the bands image and source of inspiration:
The hair is long and the screams are loud and clear
The clothes are tight, earrings dangling from the ears
No matter how we look, we'll always praise His name
A plethora of the bands trademark vocal harmonies stands in support of "Loud N Clear" as it reaches a chorus with a catchy refuse-to-go-away hook. Following a bass guitar solo from Gaines, Oz steps forward with thirty seconds of pull-out-all-the-stops fast fingered lead guitar work. The song repeats its chorus one last time and ends to a resounding explosion.
"From Wrong To Right" kicks in to a metal edged rhythm guitar sound before Michael cuts loose with an ear piercing scream and delivers one of the most noteworthy lines in all of Christian metal:
I've changed my ways from wrong to right
The devil never pays, no, he robs just like a thief in the night
So many bands give the devil all the glory
It's hard to understand, we want to change the story
Maintaining an abundance of energy-laden momentum during its first verse, deep sounding vocal harmonies briefly push the song ahead until it transitions to chorus with a message every bit as powerful as the music:
We want to rock One way, on and on
You'll see the Light some day
All say Jesus is the way!
Oz tops things off with several seconds of fiery lead guitar work.
"You Know What To Do" moves the album in a straightforward melodic hard rock direction. Introduced to acappella vocal harmonies, a crisp rhythm guitar propels the song at a catchy mid-tempo pace until it pauses prior to advancing on the emotionally charged chorus that follows. “You Know What To Do”, however, takes on a bluesy tone during its second verse as it points the way to salvation:
You say you've got some troubles, yea, oh, so many downs
You need a Light to lift you off of the ground
And if your life is senseless, just accept the Lord
And He'll make you see things you have never seen before
The vocal harmonies opening the song return at the end of an instrumental passage featuring a very well done melodic based guitar solo from Michael.
"Co'Mon Rock" ranks with the heaviest songs recorded by Stryper. The blistering guitar riff driving the song forward from the start conveys it with a ton of ardent energy to an anthem-like chorus bolstered by deep sounding vocal harmonies. Oz tears it up with his aggressively delivered lead work. "Co'Mon Rock" gives prominence to the bands mission statement:
We're rockin' for the Rock, and I know we'll never stop
And we will never be ashamed...
So, don't be afraid to shout cause that's what it's all about
We've got to spread it all around
The commercial hard rocker "You Won't Be Lonely" comes across as the most laid back of the albums six compositions. Getting underway as Michael sings in accompaniment with an acoustic guitar, the rhythm guitar takes over at the start of the songs second verse and leads the way to a chorus giving rise to a good, melodic based feel. Oz steps forward with a fast paced guitar solo before the song ends the way it began to an acoustic guitar.
The wonderful melodic metal of "Loving You" begins as the bands trademark vocal harmonies repeat its title three straight times. Once an edgy rhythm guitar drives the song through its first verse in an upbeat manner, it evenly flows to a chorus backed by just the right amount of catchy vocal harmonies. Michael nails forty seconds of crystal clear sounding lead guitar work to bring out the best in a song reinforcing the difference God can make in a persons life:
Anger in my heart, life was such a drag for me
Then I made a start to serve the living God, now I'm free
Stryper may not have been the first Christian heavy metal band or even the first Christian band to record a heavy metal album. Nevertheless, I do not think I am out of line to suggest that they were the first to put together the entire package of musicianship, songwriting, vocals, production and showmanship. Within that context, The Yellow And Black Attack stands the test of time as nothing less than a groundbreaking release in the Christian hard music world, the album ultimately helping to pave the way for a literal flood of what in time would be known as "white metal" bands to follow: Barren Cross, Bloodgood, Bride, Deliverance, Guardian, Messiah Prophet, Neon Cross, Rage Of Angels, Sacred Warrior, Saint, Shout, Whitecross, Zion and many others all releasing at least one album in the years following Stryper's emergence.
In 1986 Enigma Records, for reasons unknown, came up with the incredibly bright idea of re-mixing The Yellow And Black Attack and re-releasing it with two bonus tracks and different artwork. The end result is a watered-down and more commercial sounding version of the original which I have deemed the "The Mellow" Yellow And Black Attack. Seriously. Compare the sound of the original to the re-mixed version and you will notice a striking difference. In playing a significantly reduced role in the mix, the rhythm guitar loses much of its edge and distortion and, concurrently, a ton of energy ends up being drained from the bands performance. The explosion closing out "Loud N Clear" comes across sounding neutered. The only positives worth pointing out include a slightly cleaner drum sound and a better mix of "You Won't Be Lonely". The two bonus tracks include the ballad "My Love I'll Always Show" and "Reason For The Season" (which had previously been released as a 12" single and 7" picture disc).
The original version of The Yellow And Black Attack was released only on CD in Japan and remains the Holy Grail of Stryper collectibles.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Loud N Clear" (3:38), "From Wrong To Right" (3:52), "You Know What To Do" (4:58), "Co’Mon Rock" (3:49), "You Won’t Be Lonely" (3:47), "Loving You" (4:18)
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Oz Fox – Guitars
Tim Gaines – Bass & Keyboards
Robert Sweet - Drums
Andrews, Rob. "Stryper: Heaven Can Wait." Hit Parader (October 1988): 46-48.
Arnold, Christy. "Stryper Interview." Take A Stand (September 1990): 1-2.
Granger, Thom. "Taking Stryper Seriously." Contemporary Christian Music (August 1988): 18-20.
"No Hype, Stripes, Or Stereotypes." Heaven's Metal 32 (1991): 14-15.